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Service-oriented gateways: “Waking up” car data

Avnet | NXP Semiconductors | 11/11/2020

Service-oriented gateways: “Waking up” car data

It's no exaggeration to say that the modern car is a "data monster.” It has been estimated that the on-board data generated by the various electronic systems in a car has reached an astonishing 4TB per hour.

For “big data” believers, this massive amount of data no doubt represents a veritable goldmine of potential. Meanwhile, for car companies and consumers, a steep price is being paid to support this vast volume of data. For example, the wire harness that supports the flow of data within one of today’s luxury cars is as much as 5000 meters long and about 60 kg in weight. Based on the current in-vehicle network architecture, wire harnesses in autonomous cars will weigh as much as 100 kg in the future. For car companies, this constitutes a heavy cost, while for users this is tantamount to paying directly for the increased amount of data that is being continuously generated.

For obvious reasons, “waking up” the car data that has lain dormant and converting it into real profit has become a high priority in the automotive industry of today. Among the many solutions proposed, a term that has repeatedly surfaced in the past two years is "service-oriented gateway."


What are service-oriented gateways?

With the development of car networking, people are becoming increasingly familiar with the concept of automotive gateways. On the one hand, the automotive gateway is responsible for bridging the protocols of different bus architectures to break the data barrier between different subnetworks. On the other hand, the automotive gateway also plays the role of communication hub between the car and the external communication network, so that the car is no longer an information island.

However, these traditional automotive gateways only provide basic processing as their core function is to merely convert and process data. Yet, an increasing number of application scenarios will require the automotive gateway to manage more equipment, thereby providing users with a greater variety of smart services. The automotive gateway will soon be required to further process and refine data so decisions and responses based on the data can be made locally in real time or enable “useful” data to be transmitted to the cloud via edge computing. Thereafter global analysis can be performed and insights gained to make cars even smarter. Only when automotive gateways evolve to this extent will they truly deserve to be called "service-oriented gateways."

Here’s a simpler way to describe the difference between traditional automotive gateways and service-oriented gateways: the former deals with data, while the latter deals with users. On the surface, the two are only different in performance and functionality, but the fact is that profound changes in design and application concepts will also have a profound impact on automotive architectures of the future and even the business models of the automotive industry.


Speeding up the evolution of vehicle architecture

First, the emergence of service-oriented gateways will speed up the evolution of future vehicle architectures.

Traditional cars feature a decentralized electronic architecture. In other words, multiple ECUs are used to realize the vehicle's electrical and electronic functions, and then related ECUs are connected together through corresponding buses. However, this type of flat, point-to-point architecture is essentially a hardware-based architecture that neither contributes to system scalability nor enables function upgrades. This is obviously not conducive to the rapid, iterative computing required by the automotive industry in response to market development. Software-based, centralized management has therefore become a major focal point for the evolution of vehicle architecture.

The emergence of service-oriented gateways will greatly propel the evolution of traditional decentralized vehicle architecture to an architecture based on functional domains. The so-called functional domain-based architecture refers to the integration of ECUs with the same or similar functions into a functional domain (such as power transmission, chassis and safety, body control, infotainment, advanced driver assistance systems, etc.), which is centrally controlled by the domain controller. The service-oriented gateway, as the central hub of the vehicle, securely interconnects with the functional domain controller and processes the data in the heterogeneous vehicle network. At the same time, it establishes a safe and efficient connection with the cloud, supports OTA updates from the cloud, and remotely upgrades, manages, and maintains the automotive electronic system.

Discovering the value of car data

This change in vehicle structure lays the foundation for discovering the potential value of the massive amounts of car data that are being generated.

As mentioned, the development of a functional domain-based vehicle architecture with service-oriented gateways as the core has transformed the traditional hardware-based system into a software-based management system. This implies that the functions of a car previously defined by hardware will in future be defined by software, meaning the car you buy will transform as it continues to undergo software upgrades. For example, when you start your car in the morning, the central control panel will tell you "Your car has been upgraded with a certain new function via automatic OTA updates" – similar to the updates to our smartphones, and you will immediately begin to experience the change. This feature will enable users to feel as if their car were getting newer instead of older with each mile traveled. Who wouldn't welcome this kind of pleasant surprise?

Car companies will also be able to provide more remote system management services through service-oriented gateways in the future. In addition to "surprise gifts" in the form of upgrades to the user's system via OTA, bugs in the software can also be fixed remotely, avoiding the tedious and expensive recall and repair processes of the past. Furthermore, car companies can analyze and process the data collected by the service-oriented gateways through cloud computing, which will enable them to better understand user preferences so more personalized services can be made available. The underlying profit potential is extremely extensive as cars are no longer a one-time purchase. Through the link provided by service-oriented gateways, car companies and users will engage in more frequent and long-term interactions, which will in turn lead to more transactions that can generate added value.

Moreover, the energy released by vehicle data will also fuel other aspects of the automotive ecosystem. For example, based on the data collected by service-oriented gateways, insurance companies can set personalized and dynamic insurance rates based on driver behavior (acceleration, braking, speed, use of turn signals and so on), vehicle location, and road conditions, thereby optimizing costs. Logistics companies can also monitor the status of transportation vehicles at any time through service-oriented gateways, to optimize fuel efficiency or solve predictive maintenance problems, thereby reducing the occurrence of unexpected vehicle failures. This data will also contribute to the development of new business models such as car sharing.


How far off are service-oriented gateways?

As with every major technological upgrade, the application of service-oriented gateways and the transformation of vehicle architecture still need to undergo a process, which is especially true for the prudent automotive industry. Many technical challenges will need to be overcome along the way.

For example, the service-oriented gateway demands more of new generation automotive processors/controllers in terms of higher processing performance, greater vehicle information security, and sufficiently high functional safety.

To this end, various automotive processor manufacturers are already getting ready for battle. The S32G processor launched by NXP at the beginning of this year is a product tailored for service-oriented gateways. S32G also provides ASIL D-level MCUs and MPUs, as well as hardware accelerators for network communication, which can reduce the burden on the processor. To cope with the complex real-time environment of next generation vehicles, it offers deterministic network performance, thereby providing value-added services. In addition, S32G is embedded with a high-performance hardware security accelerator and a public key infrastructure (PKI), supported by the hardware security engine (HSE), to ensure sufficient information security. By offering 10 times the computing power and network performance through S32G, NXP hopes to position itself as the leading provider for service-oriented gateways.

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